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How to Kneebar Someone From the Bottom of Half Guard

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Applying a kneebar.

Applying a kneebar.

Kneebar Leg Lock Attack

The kneebar is an incredibly versatile leg lock attack for BJJ competition. It's frequently legal in no-gi tournaments for all adult competitors and legal for brown and black belts in the gi (depending on the competition). I've been using kneebars as a major part of my competitive game for nearly 20 years now, and there's a great deal that I've learned over the years. One position I hit this attack from a great deal is the bottom of half guard.

It is important to keep in mind a few key details when checking these techniques out. First and foremost, always make sure that you and your partner are practicing only under the supervision of a qualified instructor. The living room floor is hardly the place to experiment with limb-destroying leg attacks! Second, understand that while the meniscus is likely to be injured from a completed knee lock, there may well be other parts of the leg, such as the hamstring, which may cause your partner to tap far earlier. Finally, the kneebar itself, and particularly from the bottom, is extremely useful in combination with other techniques. "Jiu jitsu does not happen inside a vacuum," as a friend of mine once said!

Note: this is not a tutorial on the basic mechanics of a kneebar. You can find one of those here.

Bottom Half Guard: A Great Offensive Position

During the time I first started playing with half guard (back in the late 1990s), half guard was largely considered a purely defensive position—basically, your guard was "halfway passed," and you were just sort of hanging on, or trying to recover some kind of full guard. However, around that time, the mentality of sport BJJ competitors began to change, and I took notice. All of a sudden, half guard could be an offensive position as well, great for sweeping and taking the back. The thing that really caught my attention was the possibility of finishing the fight from the bottom, though, and that's where I first started experimenting with some of these leg attacks. For additional half guard tips, review the basic half guard tutorial.

Option 1: The Helicopter Kneebar

This attack is extremely direct. Even if it doesn't result in a finish, you may end up getting a sweep for your efforts.

Option 2: A Slicker Version of the Helicopter Kneebar

Grabbing your foot and shooting it directly across your opponent's hip allows for much more subtlety in the attack.

Option 3: Scissor Half Guard Kneebar Attack

I think I first saw Ricardo Liborio hit this in the world championships back in the mid to late 90s. I was blown away with the simplicity and elegance of the attack, which finished a high profile match. I've used this particular attack with consistency since the early 2000s.

Me using a kneebar from the bottom of half guard in the Pan Ams masters brown belt division in 2008.  Photo by Alicia Anthony.

Me using a kneebar from the bottom of half guard in the Pan Ams masters brown belt division in 2008. Photo by Alicia Anthony.

The Kneebar Is Versatile

When attacking from the bottom half guard, you may only use the kneebar sweeps above in order to improve your position. Similarly, if you get into the kneebar position, you may find yourself able to execute other finishes, like heel hooks, toe holds, or straight ankle locks, among others. If you'd like to see more of those, just check out my gym's YouTube page. Thanks for taking a look, and please practice these techniques safely!


© 2014 Andrew Smith

New Comments

Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on April 10, 2015:

Still counts!

ptbeast on April 10, 2015:

I voted Kneebar, but in truth my favorite leg attack is the Reverse Kneebar.

Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on August 13, 2014:

@hentaiclone: Thanks! Let me know if this lens helps.

hentaiclone on August 11, 2014:

Really love this move.